Humans are Scientists

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According to the personal construct theory, humans are scientists trying to make sense of the world around them (Village et. al., 2013); however, the research is subject to environmental conditioning. In order to make better sense of the relationships between operator fatigue and attention, cognitive mapping of a selection of pilots from a large airline is suggested to determine areas of improvement for digitized cockpits. The focus on reducing stressors, specifically low-frequency vibrations and noise (LFVN), may be important in affecting positive change for attention as it pertains to automation bias. This will help the organization to improve decision-making based on collective thought rather than an individual lead. Negotiations could also be improved, as suggested by Village et. al. (2013), allowing for collaboration at a deeper level.  

According to LaBrie’s online film about sustained attention (2014), vigilance requires external sustainability which is limited by the human attention span lasting only about thirty (30) minutes. The issue facing employees such as pilots is that the language of the environment must be understood and practiced with divided attention in order to target response inhibition rather than a continuation of the response. Internal sustained attention has been researched in the Buddhist monk community showing that acuity and perceptual discrimination can improve vigilance on low-load tasks (LaBrie, 2014).  

Exposure to stressors lowers the ability to reach internal sustained attention, although stress itself is not positive or negative. When certain stressors are not processed in a top hierarchy for a response, it is possible that substances such as adrenaline cause toxic loops causing elevated body processes leading to information overload on the cellular level which could be linked to wellness issues such as heart disease and cancer. Stressors such as low-frequency vibrations and noise (LFVN) “seriously affect mental and physical tasks,” often contributing to “problems such as headaches, fatigue, motion sickness, and eye strain, and interfere with the ability to read and interpret instruments effectively” (Dhillon, 1999).  

To construct a study to examine how to demonstrate this aspect of cognition, the specific research question is: 

“How do stressors, specifically low-frequency vibrations and noise (LVFN), affect the role of attention as it pertains to automation bias?” 

Human factors professionals must determine an appropriate method of research. To conduct this cognitive mapping project, open-ended questions could be provided to pilots through a cloudbank software that would allow them to record moments of interference due to distractions, as well as responses to stressors such as headaches or fatigue. By gathering this information, human factors researchers can take an omniscient role in the study to lessen transference. By utilizing wireframing programs like Figma, researchers can organize the pilot’s responses for concepts and relationships that would lead to a better understanding of the shape and structure of the future developments of the study. Analyzing the data for related nodes, loops, and domains through qualitative clustering allows researchers to identify opportunities for action based on “growth, decline, or feedback control” (Village et. al., 2013).  

According to both Goldstein (2018) and Guastello (2013), synchronized systems play a part in the performance of cognition. There is a point where all the attention is divided in synchronization to determine which part of the information is needed to move forward in a lower-level task mode so that the default mode network (DMN) can function at a normalized capacity to allow for original thought to create new actions or default to the top-down processing function. 

If we know that a cycle exists, such as the circadian rhythm which creates our sleep pattern to naturally re-energize the body as referenced by Guastello (2013), it is possible that other rhythms based on low-frequency vibrations and noise (LVFN) play into audible rhythms that affect the discrimination index and sustained attention reflecting changes in the level of default mode network (DMN) activity, as well as the cognitive level of information being processed as low- or high-load tasks. 

“Cognitive failure follows the same essential temporal dynamics as physical fatigue” (Guastello, p. 212, 2013).  

This failure affects episodic and pictorial memory resulting in stress attacking the weakest link as suggested by the diathesis model, thus predisposing individuals to certain diseases based on insufficiencies in the body (Guastello, 2013). Although self-ordering of tasks produced better results in attention and performance, this is not applicable to a process such as starting the engine of a plane which requires specific procedures. As a result, pilots must operate on “three (3) levels of performance associated with entire jobs rather than specific tasks that require longer horizon time” (Guastello, p. 206, 2013). Supported by the Euler buckling theory, this overload of information can cause a “crush” of input at the synchronization processing point, leading to workload failure and cognitive wandering.  

At the cost of adapting, cognitive resources are depleted with persistent coping. Just as it is difficult for the pilot to turn off vigilance, it is as challenging for the pilot to sleep due to the consistent pass on attending to stressors. The amount of information, particularly those associated with rhythm and cycle, must be tempered in order to provide safety to pilots’ longevity both personally and professionally. 


Developments in aviation are dually important as they often translate to the general population for use in daily life becoming a pillar of modern society leading to innovations in research. Understanding the concepts and relationships of stressors from the pilot’s point of view in order to provide enhancements allows for the realization of human-centric designs. 


Dhillon, B.S. (1999). Engineering Maintainability.99-119. Gulf Professional Publishing. Retrieved November 6, 2022, from 

Goldstein, E. B. (2018). Cognitive psychology: connecting mind research and everyday experience (5th ed.).92-127. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 

Guastello, S. J. (2013). Human factors engineering and ergonomics: A systems approach, second edition.202-222. Taylor & Francis Group. 

LaBrie, R. (2014). The Cognitive Neuroscience of Sustained Attention and Classical Mindfulness: Volume 1. YouTube. Retrieved November 6, 2022, from

Village, J., Salustri, F. A., & Neumann, W. P. (2013). Cognitive mapping: Revealing the links between human factors and strategic goals in organizations. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 43(4), 304–313. 


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